Join Bridge Winners
Avoid Commitment
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In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have to decide how high to compete opposite partner's multi opening.

Both vul, South deals. As East, you hold:

East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
?

2: Weak 2 in a major

Any 2 or 3-level major-suit bid by you is pass or correct. If you bid 2 and partner has hearts, he will bid 2NT with a minimum, 3 with a non-minimum.

Your call?

East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
?

You are certainly willing to compete to 3 if partner has hearts. Therefore, bidding 2 has to be better than bidding 2. The question is whether or not you want to compete to 3 if partner has spades. If so, then you should bid 3 pass or correct. If not, then you should settle for 2.

Suppose partner opened a normal weak 2. What would you do? While partner could have only 5 spades and a shapely hand, vulnerable he is likely to have a 6-card suit. With a 9-card fit, it is often correct to compete to the 3-level. This argues for bidding 3, pass or correct.

On the other hand, both opponents have passed. This indicates that the strength is relatively evenly divided. There is a good chance if you just bid 2 that this will buy the contract. If the opponents get to the 3-level, you can still compete to 3 if you see fit. You hold the ranking suit, so there is no need to over-preempt. Should you let the opponents find a fit and they then go to the 4-level over your 3 call, you won't mind that at all. It looks best to just bid 2, pass or correct.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
?

2: Pass or correct

DBL: Takeout

Your call?

East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
?

It has to be right to pass now and see what happens. For all you know, South will pass the takeout double. If the opponents stop at the 3-level, you can reconsider. The information you let the opponents exchange won't make a difference, since they aren't likely to be competing over 3 and you will be happy if they do.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
?

Your call?

East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
?

It is clear to sell. Even if partner has a singleton heart, the trump total is only 17 (8 hearts plus 9 spades). Bidding to 3 contracts for 18 total tricks. Your hand is very defensively oriented with the 4-3-3-3 shape and the strength in the enemy suit.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

Partner leads the 5. Third from even, low from odd.

North
K8
J104
AQ63
QJ97
East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

The 7 is played from dummy. If you don't attempt to win the trick, your play is defined as suit-preference. 10, 9, 8 (by priority) are suit-preference high. 2, 3, 4 (by priority) are suit-preference low. 6, 5, 7 (by priority) are encouraging.

Your play?

North
K8
J104
AQ63
QJ97
East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

Is it necessary to win this trick? Only if partner has led from Kxxx. That would be consistent with the spot card led. But what would it make partner's distribution? If he were 6-2-1-4, he surely would have led his singleton diamond. He would have to be 6-1-2-4. Even with that shape, it seems likely that he would have led from a doubleton diamond than making the risky club lead away from the king. Also, if that is his shape how are you going to get more than 1 spade trick, 2 club tricks, and 1 heart trick? The best you can hope for is that he has the singleton 9 of hearts, and if declarer has A8652 of hearts he will power the jack of hearts through you and you will get only 1 heart trick. Therefore, for you to have a chance partner can't have Kxxx of clubs, so it is not directly necessary to win this trick.

It looks more likely that partner has led from a doubleton club. If that is the case, it has to be better to avoid commitment and duck the club. The threat of a club ruff will be hanging over declarer's head, which may force him to commit in the trump suit when he doesn't want to do so. In the meantime you will have halted declarer's development of the club suit, which may give you the opportunity to force declarer and take control of the hand.

Could the club lead be a singleton? That would be consistent with partner's bidding and lead, as he could be 6-2-4-1. But this would make declarer 2-4-2-5. With that shape declarer would surely have bid 3, not 3, particularly since your 2 pass or correct call implies that you have some heart length.

If you are ducking the club, the 6 is the right play. This is encouraging, while the 4 would imply diamond strength which you don't have.

You choose to win the ace of clubs. Declarer plays the king. How do you continue?

North
K8
J104
AQ63
QJ9
East
Q95
KQ73
972
64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

As discussed, partner doesn't figure to have a singleton club. Continuing clubs can't accomplish anything, since declarer will be able to win in dummy, lead the jack of hearts, and draw two rounds of trumps. You do better shifting to spades. This will put you in position to later force declarer if you can arrange to win the third round of trumps.

You lead the 5. Declarer plays the 6, partner the 10, and dummy wins the king. Declarer leads the jack of hearts off dummy. Do you cover?

North
8
J104
AQ63
QJ9
East
Q9
KQ73
972
64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

If partner has a stiff ace, covering would be a disaster. That doesn't seem likely. Not only would that give him a marginal opening bid, but with 6-1-4-2 shape and a stiff ace of hearts he probably would have led a diamond instead of a club.

Otherwise, covering looks best. Partner may have a doubleton heart. If you can make declarer win the first round of hearts, that means you have the boss trump and can control when it is played. This will allow you to force declarer at the right time.

You cover with the queen. Declarer wins the ace of hearts, partner playing the 6 (suit-preference in trumps). Declarer leads a heart to dummy's 10, partner playing the 2. Do you win or duck?

North
8
104
AQ63
QJ9
East
Q9
K73
972
64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

Ducking is clear. If you win you can cash a spade, but dummy will be able to take the force on the third round of spades. After you duck, if declarer continues hearts you can win and pound away at spades, forcing declarer to ruff and establishing your fourth heart.

You duck. Declarer plays another heart from dummy. How do you defend?

North
8
4
AQ63
QJ9
East
Q9
K7
972
64
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

As planned, you win the third round of hearts (partner discarding a spade), and lead the queen of spades. Partner overtakes, and leads the jack of spades which declarer ruffs, discarding a diamond from dummy.

Declarer now leads the 2 to the queen, partner playing the 3. Declarer cashes the jack of clubs, playing the 8 as partner discards a spade. Now the 9 is played from dummy. Do you ruff or discard?

North
AQ6
9
East
7
972
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P

You must ruff. If you discard, declarer wins with the 10, takes a diamond finesse, and makes. You must hope partner has K10x or KJx of diamonds. If that is the case, partner will score the third round of diamonds.

You carelessly discard, hoping that dummy has the high club. Declarer wins, takes a diamond finesse, and all you get is your trump trick. The full hand is:

West
AJ10743
62
K85
53
North
K8
J104
AQ63
QJ97
East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
South
62
A985
J104
K1082
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
7
A
K
2
0
1
5
6
10
K
1
1
1
J
Q
A
6
3
2
1
5
2
10
3
1
3
1
4
K
8
3
2
3
2
Q
2
A
8
0
3
3
J
3
9
9
3
4
3
2
3
Q
4
1
5
3
J
6
8
4
1
6
3
9
7
10
7
3
7
3
10
8
6
11

Declarer had the diamond spots, so the contract could not have been defeated at the end.

Do you agree with declarer's line of play?

West
AJ10743
62
K85
53
North
K8
J104
AQ63
QJ97
East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
South
62
A985
J104
K1082
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
7
A
K
2
0
1
5
6
10
K
1
1
1
J
Q
A
6
3
2
1
5
2
10
3
1
3
1
4
K
8
3
2
3
2
Q
2
A
8
0
3
3
J
3
9
9
3
4
3
2
3
Q
4
1
5
3
J
6
8
4
1
6
3
9
7
10
7
3
7
3
10
8
6
11

Since the ace of clubs has been dislodged and a second round of clubs hasn't been played, declarer could have kept better control by ducking when the jack of hearts was covered. This would permit declarer to draw as many rounds of trumps as he wants to draw, thus avoiding getting forced.

What do you think of the N-S auction?

West
AJ10743
62
K85
53
North
K8
J104
AQ63
QJ97
East
Q95
KQ73
972
A64
South
62
A985
J104
K1082
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
7
A
K
2
0
1
5
6
10
K
1
1
1
J
Q
A
6
3
2
1
5
2
10
3
1
3
1
4
K
8
3
2
3
2
Q
2
A
8
0
3
3
J
3
9
9
3
4
3
2
3
Q
4
1
5
3
J
6
8
4
1
6
3
9
7
10
7
3
7
3
10
8
6
11

North's reopening double is borderline. He is facing a passed hand, so it is unlikely that there is a game. At best reopening can win a double part-score swing, and his hand is relatively flat. This makes competing to the 3-level questionable. One can see this by looking at the actual hand. The finesses are onside for N-S, so in spades West will lose 1 spade, 1 heart, 3 diamonds, and 1 club for down 1. Meanwhile, N-S barely made their 3-level contract.

Even though the takeout double tends to show 4 hearts, South might have been better advised to bid 3 (or even better 2NT if that asks for North's better minor). The reason is that East's 2 call shows willingness to compete to 3 but not 3, so East figures to have more hearts than spades and quite likely has 4 hearts.

At the other table West opened a standard weak 2, and that ended the auction. The defense took the expected 6 tricks for down 1.

On defense, it is usually a good idea to not win a trick unless either you want to win it or you have to win it. This hand is a good illustration of this principle. While 3 will still make on the actual layout, East can make things stickier for declarer by ducking the opening lead, a trick he didn't want to win or have to win.

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